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WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever 449

retroworks writes: "Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon Communications are lobbying states, one by one, to hang up the plain, old telephone system, what the industry now calls POTS — the copper-wired landline phone system whose reliability and reach made the U.S. a communications powerhouse for more than 100 years. Is landline obsolete, and should be immune from grandparents-era social protection? The article continues, 'Last week, Michigan joined more than 30 other states that have passed or are considering laws that restrict state-government oversight and eliminate "carrier of last resort" mandates, effectively ending the universal-service guarantee that gives every U.S. resident access to local-exchange wireline telephone service, the POTS. (There are no federal regulations guaranteeing Internet access.) ... In Mantoloking, N.J., Verizon wants to replace the landline system, which Hurricane Sandy wiped out, with its wireless Voice Link. That would make it the first entire town to go landline-less, a move that isn't sitting well with all residents."
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WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever

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  • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:16AM (#46613407) Homepage Journal

    Seems like a fair trade.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:02AM (#46613515)

      So we give up something we've had for years, and in exchange we get to keep something we've had for years? And what happens when they come back in five years saying Net Neutrality is just too much of a burden? What do we give up in ransom next?

      • You guys in the US have had net neutrality for years? News to me. I thought you had this watered down thing where the ISP's along with major peers were giving the thin veneer of that, while saying they're not shaping traffic while slapping in sandvine boxes all the while. I know that it's what Rogers, Bell and Telus were doing in Canada for quite awhile until the CRTC, Industry Canada and the Feds smacked them around.

        • by hjf ( 703092 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @09:50AM (#46614519) Homepage

          As a network administrator, I can guarantee you that traffic shaping *is* necessary.

          Just like in "real life" you drive at a certain speed, and traffic lights decide which cars pass and which ones have to wait.

          Just like in "real life" certain vehicles have priority above all (ambulances).

          Expecting a fully unregulated internet is dumb. No matter how much capacity you can add to YOUR network, there will still be a bottleneck somewhere. And you really don't want ICMP queueing up at that point, or Bad Things® happen.

          And you really don't want SMTP to have the same priority as HTTP. You really don't need that email to arrive in a second. It can take 10, 20, 30 seconds. It can take a minute, and that's OK. But your web browsing can't wait 10, 20, 30 seconds.

          Let's not be fools. Traffic shaping IS a need. I get where you're coming from (priorizing one company over another) but it's silly to think it should be completely unrestricted. Real life isn't. Why should the internet be?

          • by Aqualung812 ( 959532 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @10:48AM (#46614773)

            Couple things:

            1. Traffic Shaping *CAN* be done in a Network Neutral way. If all RTP traffic is higher than all SMTP traffic (regardless if the RTP traffic is from my house to a friend and the SMTP traffic is from Comcast), then you have preserved NETWORK (not traffic) neutrality. I think this is acceptable to most people that support Network Neutrality.

            2. Traffic Shaping should only be used in bursts. If you are using it for hours at a time, BUY MORE CAPACITY. I've yet to see any shaping that works as well as more capacity.
            In other words, if your ISP is saturated every night between suppertime and bedtime, they need more capacity.
            If they use shaping to make sure a sudden burst of downloads for the latest Apple iOS updates don't impact VoIP and Video RTP for their customers, that is a good thing.

          • The difference is you are using traffic shaping to make your network work better. The major ISPs want to use traffic shaping to make the network work worse. (in order to extract money from content providers.)

    • by macraig ( 621737 )

      The problem with your suggestion is that, like every other American, you have no fucking idea what true network neutrality looks like or how to implement it. What you would ask for, and if you got it what the rest of us would then have to endure, would NOT be network neutrality. One election cycle is all it would take to whisk away the facade and return us to business as usual.

    • If you are going to get Rid of POTS what we really need more then Net Neutrality is to be sure we have an infrastructure for its replacement.
      AKA make sure everyone has access to fiber before you get rid of pots.

      Nearly every American household has a phone line to their home, even if they don't use it it is there. However most people do not have a fiber optic connection to their home, and Wireless is very spotty.

      Get us connectivity with a choice of carriers then we can talk Net Neutrality.

  • by Fulminata ( 999320 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:20AM (#46613421)
    As soon as they can guarantee reliable cell service to everyone, they can be allowed to cease providing land line service to everyone.
    • That's not a bad idea. I don't know if you meant truly universal, or "full coverage in the affected area". I think it would be fine to allow an experiment in a town that has had the POTS infrastructure already wiped out, if the town has at least two competing VoIP or wireless carriers with full coverage in the town.

      If it works okay in the town that had already lost POTS due to the hurricane, the same policy could be tried elsewhere. The phone company could drop POTS service in the county only if that leav

      • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:43AM (#46613621)

        The problem is the people outside of town. It's easy to have a cell tower or 2 in the centre of town but to have multiple towers will mean eating into their profits.

        • I suspect in certain areas that would indeed be costly for the telco. They'd have to balance that cost against the cost of laying and maintaining copper if they had to cover the entire county. Would they rather keep providing copper to the whole county, or switch to providing fiber or wireless to the county? Either way, the entire county has service.

      • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @04:39AM (#46613733) Homepage Journal

        A big thing is that they don't get to define 'coverage'. Too many areas they claim are covered have terrible and unreliable service. To be covered, it needs to have x signal strength INSIDE each and every home all the time. No dropped calls at all, and no drop outs.

        In other words, it needs to be at least as good as properly maintained copper. That also means they will need to have several days of backup power at each cell tower.

        And since it costs a lot less than POTS to install and maintain, we expect it to cost less than POTS service. Note that in many areas they will need a low cost voice only unlimited minutes for a flat fee rate.

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      I'm in a big sparse country so not quite the same as the States but if I lost my land line I'd be out of contact. No cell service as I'm 40 miles outside of a city that including suburbs only has a million and half people and internet comes over that land line at a whole 3KB/s. Satellites are behind mountains and trees and lots of rain as well.

    • by dutchwhizzman ( 817898 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:46AM (#46613627)

      The price of a land line as far as I know is capped so even remote locations will be able to afford one. Not only that, but I believe that almost every location should be able to get a land line at this price and telcos are mandated to provide that service.

      If telcos want to go wireless, they are essentially talking about getting the "last mile" out of the equation. How they get (voice) data from and to the neighborhoods isn't mandated. This has already led to phone systems being out on the fritz when they are most needed, because phone companies decided to cheapskate on things like electrical power availability, line of sight and such. The telephone system has helped keep communications going for disaster areas throughout the last 100 years or so with varying amounts of success. Lets at least get them to do it properly if they are ever allowed to replace it so people can be certain it's affordable and it will work even in disaster circumstances when the reliability is required most.
  • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:25AM (#46613431) Homepage
    With carriers having overcharged over 300 billion [] who is then on the hook if there are no more landline companies? Of course telcom giants want people only on wireless, Verizon has been selling off their landline business for years.

    I haven't kept up with the laws the last decade but the ILECs - incumbent local exchange carrier - were the equivalent of government mandated monopolies. Telco reform act of '96 forced the ILECs to share the publicly paid for infrastructure with startup phone companies. The Internet exploded with thousands of ISPs popping up. This was rolled back under Bush Jr when Powell's son was running the FCC. I wonder if this means other companies can move into these abandoned areas without the ILEC screaming like crazy?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      With carriers having overcharged over 300 billion [] who is then on the hook if there are no more landline companies? Of course telcom giants want people only on wireless, Verizon has been selling off their landline business for years. ...
      I wonder if this means other companies can move into these abandoned areas without the ILEC screaming like crazy?

      No, the ILEC's won't scream. And no, no other companies will move in. Once all are converted to wireless, POTS will be forbidden by law ... it 'interferes' with wireless networks somehow, all they need is a line item inserted into a 'farm aid' bill or similar that declares POTS installs of any kind to be dangerous to the wireless businesses ... then they'll say "see, we can't do POTS because it's bad for you, we know it is because there is a law that says so" ...

  • An option? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:38AM (#46613453)
    Municipality should simply take over the existing land line infrastructure.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anubi ( 640541 )
      Think twice before you want to assume this mess. Ever seen inside those telco boxes? They are a mess of 50 year old wire, eroded, and crumbling. I have seen them in my neighborhood and wondered how the telco kept them running.

      I think they are pricing landline use through the roof to get people to abandon their line, then they re-allocate the remaining working lines to the ones who have not jumped ship yet.

      Personally, I think the landline infrastructure I have seen is rotten to the core, and is ine
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:41AM (#46613459) Homepage

    Only a couple of conditions:

    1. All government services must be accessible at no cost via a method which is guaranteed to be available to any person. IOW if landline phone service isn't required to be universal then all government offices must have in-person hours and be staffed at a level sufficient to get everyone who shows up on any given day served before the office closes, or all services must be available via mail (postage pre-paid). Online-only services are not allowed, since the government isn't guaranteeing that everyone will receive Internet access. Phone-only services are not allowed since the government isn't guaranteeing everyone will receive cel phone service. Online-only or phone-only would only be allowed if the government mandated that everyone would be able to receive either Internet access or cel-phone service regardless of location. Which the service providers won't go for, since their whole goal is to avoid being legally required to provide service in unprofitable areas.

    2. Any person must be able to get basic (local calling and 911 service) phone service at any address, regardless of where that address is, upon request at no more than the previous cost of equivalent landline service. Whether it be via cel or VOIP, the service must be available. Note that this doesn't completely get around requirement #1, since the basic service isn't guaranteed to provide access to government numbers. To the extent that it does, it would satisfy #1.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      1 can never be adequately satisfied unless the phone company wants to be Oprah and give everyone a car. Even then, it's a bit of a problem to go to the police in person if someone is attempting to break in to your home.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:42AM (#46613463)

    we use daily. Why throw it away?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Because most of us don't actually use it daily, or weekly, or monthly. I haven't had a landline in over ten years, including both my work and home phone numbers (my workplace uses VoIP).

      I would say a first step is that the requirement be loosened such that the so-called POTS should be sufficient, but not necessary, to meet the requirements. The alternatives that could replace the POTS should not require an unreasonable sacrifice compared to keeping the POTS.

      If you can come up with a reason that it's unrea

      • Trouble is your broadband typically relies on pots to work, cable tv providers don't reach everybody even in cabled area's.

        I live in an area where there is never going to be cable tv its uneconomic for them to lay cable this far out. DSL via the phone line is also not possible due to distance from the exchange and 3g barely works.
        Cell service is adequate for text messaging but making voice calls is tricky you have to be in precisely the right place for you and the person you are talking too to hear each o

    • by arfonrg ( 81735 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:08AM (#46613523)

      Because it works well (especially in emergencies) but isn't a cash cow.

    • Because those running modern industries are intimidated by the simplicity and reliability of the services that came before.

  • by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:47AM (#46613473) Homepage Journal

    ...these supercarriers need to be advised that any service they plan on replacing POTS with, will fall under common carrier regulation, and they will need to get approval from state regulatory boards for price modifications, service level changes, and the like. Under Common Carrier regulation, they will have to open up their service offerings to competitors at the same rates they charge their internal providers, i.e. their Internet Service capability will have to be available to companies like NetZero, at the same rates that they charge their own internal ISP organization.

    They will also be obligated to build out their infrastructure to provide universal access to provide coverage to every customer they pull POTS services from. That's not to say that they can't make hybrid service available, where they provide some form of a wireless trunk to an equipment stack outside of town that provides local distribution in the same area that they already do this for with POTS. Essentially they will replace T1 trunk hardware at those remote vaults with a wireless T1 system, and presumably none of the customers would be the wiser.

    Note, I don't expect that this is how things will play out, just how I think it should. I'm biased, as I am a customer who's worked in the telecom industry.

  • by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:16AM (#46613539) Homepage

    I think we should probably be keeping that POTS system around, maintained and such. You just never know. We might need it for something!

  • what the industry now calls POTS

    It's been called POTS for at least 20 years. Sheesh, kids these days


  • Compromise. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <.moc.edargorter- ... . .xetroCxetroV.> on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:32AM (#46613593)

    I will fight to keep POTS as long as you prevent all unlicensed use of select short-wave radio bands.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:32AM (#46613597) Homepage

    I'm in Silicon Valley, and cellular just doesn't work very well. At least not Sprint's CDMA network.

    At home, I have to go to a window to get one or two bars, because the local community association doesn't want a cell tower nearby. I have a Sprint Airave box, which gives me a femtocell which mooches bandwidth from my IP connection. This gets me VoIP quality at cellular prices. If I lose Internet connectivity, I lose cellular connectivity. The Airave box is badly programmed; when it loses IP connectivity it still captures local handsets and insists it's the best path to the network. You have to disconnect its power to reach a cell tower instead.

    At TechShop Menlo Park, which is adjacent to a major freeway, I have to get near a window to get coverage. I'm not sure why there's a coverage hole there.

    For a long time, there was no Sprint coverage on the Stanford campus, because Stanford had an exclusive deal with AT&T.

    I was in San Jose recently, near PayPal HQ, and couldn't get Sprint connectivity until I drove up to a closed Sprint store. They have a femtocell so their demos work, and just outside the store, there was good connectivity.

    Even when it works, cellular voice quality sucks. Sprint finally seems to have fixed their delay problem, though. For a while I was getting delays as long as a second, with delayed echoes coming back, like some low-end VoIP system.

    The land line works great. Voice quality is very good, because it's only about 150 feet of copper to the big underground AT&T vault (the size of a shipping container, air conditioned, and full of racks of gear) out at the street. But there are no cellular antennas at that location; it's all wires and fiber.

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @04:00AM (#46613669)

      stop using sprint, DUH

    • At TechShop Menlo Park, which is adjacent to a major freeway, I have to get near a window to get coverage. I'm not sure why there's a coverage hole there.

      Chances are, it's a steel-frame building. Which is probably the next best thing to a Faraday cage, plus whatever echoes and distortions the interior structure contributes. Then there's the questionable radio transparency of concrete floors and walls at cell frequencies.

      It's when you're outside and the coverage is crap that your should be concerned/annoyed.

      If interior coverage was that important to the company, I'm sure that they could arrange it.

      • You're forgetting the windows. Chances are that the windows are also coated in a thin metallic film (intended to reflect IR) to either keep heat out or in.

        Can see that easily at my parents home - as long as the glass door to the garden is open, their handheld has a connection to the base station. Glass door is shut - connection to the base station is lost.

  • POT is a constitutionally protected privacy interest. The airwaves are not.

  • They want to be able to sell you wireless, internet, etc, etc. But if you look around, they're not going to let you out the door for anything less than $100 a month anymore.

    I had a client trying to figure out why AT&T was charging her $400/month for 2 "business" POTS lines. They told her she could reduce her bill to $150 if she took 2 POTS lines and a DSL connection. She already had Comcast cable and a Comcast phone line. Adding 2 lines to the Comcast plan would have cost $70 (the first 3 lines are usually the most expensive). But damn if that AT&T person didn't try the hard sell!

    Basically this is about shedding regulatory obligations and pumping the public for even MORE money. Make no mistake.
    They're still not promising universal coverage, coverage in underserved areas, higher speeds, etc. They're basically just trying to force the customers into paying more without the government coming down on them like a ton of baked shit bricks.

  • It's easy to say it's just the phone company pushing it but here in Norway there used to be 2.6 million land lines (PSTN/ISDN). In the last statistics (H1 2013) there's less than 600.000 and the trend has been >10% reduction each year, so probably less than 550.000 right now. Fiber and cable are growing, xDSL is dropping the moment people get alternatives. Practically everybody already have a cell phone and would never consider dropping it, so price wise you can be on the cell phone forever before you br

  • AT&T and Verizon have been abandoning rural phone for years now. They sell their rural territories and invest in metropolitan areas because there's less expense in metropolitan areas. The same equipment that serves 100 people in a rural area serves 10,000 in newyork. Yet it costs the same. These laws force AT&T to serve the rural customers they have.

    If they do away with these laws then the only option rural customers will have (the majority of the country) is cellular if it's available... and in man

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:02PM (#46615769)

    I realize you city dudes have a hard time with this idea but there are large swaths of the USA, and world, where there is no cell phone service. POTS is all we have and I had to lay a mile and a half of my own cable to get that. There is something called mountains that make radio, TV, cellular, WiFi and such not work so well.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson